September 2009

The Eildon Hills, as seen from St Columba's 2009

Report by Mike Ellis on the Pelicans' informal get-together at Melrose
Saturday 26th September 2009

Following a number of informal get-togethers which took place in Surrey, Edinburgh and London during July and August 2009, it was decided that we would try to bring together a number of ex St. Columba’s students from 1959 – 1961 to celebrate fifty years since we all went there.

The following group, some with partners convened at The George & Abbotsford Hotel, High Street, Melrose at 15.00 on 26th September.

Ian Scott, Owen and Susan Gormley, Tony Smyth, David and Clare Ritson, Raymond and Maureen Sweeney, Eric Creaney, Fr. Pat Shanahan, Robin Russell, Philip Mason, Mike & Tricia Ellis.

We all drove to St. Columba’s and Eric kindly arranged for the caretaker to open the place up and let us have a look around. It is now used as a conference centre.

Tweed Horizons is situated in Newtown Saint Boswells in the heart of the Scottish Borders, only 37 miles south of Edinburgh.  The centre is based in a striking landmark building, a former seminary within 27 acres of magnificent elevated grounds overlooking the famous River Tweed and nearby Dryburgh Abbey.

In some respects it was sad to see what has become of the place! The once beautiful chapel has now been plastered from top to bottom with white coloured plaster and, where the altar was, is now a low stage. It is described as follows:

The grounds including the football pitch are now beautifully manicured lawns and gardens. The once rather “scraggy looking” silver birch trees are now mature and looked splendid in the wonderful weather that we enjoyed during this weekend.

Father Stoker’s wall, which surrounds the quadrangle at the back of the building, has survived intact – this is something of a miracle as many of us had to help him build it in 1960 as part of our manual work duties in 1960/61. The rose garden just above the pigsty is no more, just a simple grass bank. The “sledging field” is now an orchard and it’s impossible to see the river Tweed from the top of the field now! The old basketball court is now a tiny garden in the centre of the building and the photograph below shows you how it looks now.

David Ritson, Mike Ellis, Tony Smyth, Raymond Sweeney, Philip Mason, Ian Scott,
Robin Russell, Eric Creaney, Owen Gormley, Pat Shanahan
September 2009

We all had a good look round and it was a nostalgic event for everyone!

On the evening of 26th Ian had arranged for us to have the use of a private dining room in the hotel for dinner. The food was excellent and the wine and refreshments both plentiful and most satisfying! It is difficult for me to report on the proceedings that evening as the chorus of laughter was such that we at the west end of the table could not follow what was going on the east end.
During a lull in the conversation I raised the topic of trying to expand the active members of our generation in the Pelicans. During the discussion it emerged that most of us can make contact with some current non-participants and we all agreed that if everyone managed to get just one or two new participants it could help sustain and maintain a viable group for another 10-20 years.

We finished up with a little music at which point we all retired to get some sleep!

Next morning we all enjoyed a wholesome breakfast following which Fr. Pat Shanahan said Mass for us all in the room we had occupied for dinner the night before.

Pat provided a simple and most touching and spiritually uplifting service and a comment made by one of our number was that it was the closest any of us had ever been to the atmosphere that must have prevailed during the last supper!

Thank you Pat for all your help with this!

Following Mass and then coffee, we all drove together via the Wallace monument to Scott’s view from whence we departed, some travelling home from there. Others, including Ian, Philip and Tricia and me went for a nice Sunday lunch in The Stair Arms Inn on the on the A68 just south of Edinburgh.

Many, who attended this get-together, have sent e-mails to say how much they enjoyed the event and during our discussions following dinner on 26th a “straw poll” was taken on whether we should try to organise another one – this time with an invitation to the entire Pelicans Group to join us in the Yorkshire area in August of September 2010. This will be publicised on the Pelicans' website quite soon.

If anyone would like to comment further on this event I am sure that Paul West will be delighted to receive your contributions!

Thank you to all who both participated and made this event such a success!

Mike Ellis
October 2009